...as opposed to my 4 year hitch in the army!!
Doug DePew's book is truly a snapshot in time, a journey into one of the most unique US Army infantry battalions that existed during the cold war era. 2d Bn 4th INF had been in Germany with it's parent unit, 56th Field Artillery (Pershing)for several decades (HQ was activated in Heilbronn in the early 60's). The replacement of the Pershing 1's with Pershing 2's began in the early 80's however. This was in response to Soviet deployment of the SS-20, a mobile nuke missle with a range of over 2,000 miles (The P1 had a range of 400). Although highly controversal, the deployment of the P2, combined with the Cruise missile are the weapon systems most credited with helping to hasten the end of both the Warsaw Pact and USSR.
Doug's book begins with his arrival at Frankfort, Germany late fall 1986. He is a freshly minted US Army Lightweapons Infantryman, MOS 11b, 18 y/o and straight out of Ft Benning. Although Doug probably saw himself riding about Germany on a M113 or maybe the just deploying Bradley IFV, the army, after careful screening has another mission for Doug and the 10-20 other screened 11b's arriving at Frankfort that week. Doug gets assigned to 2/4, an infantry battalion who's only mission is guarding the Pershing missiles. While Doug could have gone to Neu Ulm with the bulk of 2/4, he gets assigned to the seperate company, Charlie which operated a couple hours away in Heilbronn.
The book proceeds on his two year journey there, as another reviewer pointed out, written in a nice conversational tone. Doug puts you there as he meets his fellow 'cherries' (FNGs, new guys) hits the town for the first time, does his first site tour, the craziness that ensued after almost all site tours. Doug explored a good chunk of Europe while there, both with his friends and alone, he takes you on those trips. The book is a quick, easy read and will have you laughing at many of the adventures. He doesn't sugar coat anything either, during his first year he has an accidental discharge and get's an article 15, he was burned out after being on the missile site for over a month; many would do far worse things.
A previous reader expressed concern at drinking and excessive fighting. It has to be realized that due to the unique mission of 2/4, troops generally spent over half the year 'on site', in total isolation. There were no cell phones, internet or even newspapers. Troops of 2/4 when on site lived like submariners, without the good food and extra pay. So it is natural when they get off 'the rock' they blow off steam, lots and lots of steam.
I think anyone who served in Europe would like this book, especially those who served during that era. Anyone interested in modern military history or the cold war as well. The book is a no holds, funny, irrevrent look at a young man coming-of-age, reminiscent of some of the great satirical war novels with the twist that it's all true!
In the fall of 1987 Doug was in the towers with two of his first C 2/4 roomates. SPC Joe Alvarez was short, it was his last tour. Joe had a bitter outlook on his C 2/4 experience and always stated he didn't want to be one of those 'loser veterans' who wax nostalgic about their army time. "Look out there" Joe said, pointing to the woodline, "4,000 miles away people in America are going to their 9-5 job, people are sleeping, eating, doing whatever; They have no idea about 2/4, the towers, they don't know what we do, they don't care, no one knows or cares." I don't know who else was in that relief, but I was the other of Doug's roomates there. With Doug's book I hope that at least some people may finally know and have some understanding of what we did.
It's all true, just like Doug said, I know, I was there too.
Co C 2/4 INF--11/86 to 4/90